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Overview

Southland (Māori: Murihiku) is the name of New Zealand's southernmost region and is also the name of a district within that region. Southland District covers the majority of the land area of Southland Region, although the region also covers Gore District, Invercargill City and adjacent territorial waters. It has a land area of 30,400.94 km², excluding inland waters such as Lake Te Anau, Lake Manapouri, and Lake Hauroko. Southland District contains the towns of Winton, Riverton, Lumsden and Te Anau, and the islands south of Foveaux Strait: Solander Island, Stewart Island/Rakiura (New Zealand’s third largest island) and Ruapuke Island. Two of New Zealand's largest national parks are within the boundaries of Southland District: Fiordland National Park, and Rakiura National Park (which covers most of Stewart Island/Rakiura). Southland is New Zealand's southernmost region and the lush, green pastoral lands of Southland are in strong contrast to the dryness of Central Otago further north. Throughout the Southland region are a number of accessible, tranquil waterways that attract fly-fishing enthusiasts in search of brown trout. The main city, Invercargill, is built around beautiful Queens Park, 80 hectares of gardens, wildlife and sporting fun. As well as an 18-hole golf course, the park has animal enclosures, an aviary,play areas and the Southland Museum.

Local Employment

Tourism spending is a major factor of the Southland economy, with NZ$368 million being spent by visitors in 2003, of which NZ$92 million was spent in the Fiordland area. In addition to the cafes, restaurants and hotels in Invercargill and Gore, there are other places that cater for tourists in this area, namely in Bluff and Stewart Island. The area is diverse and has many different styles of hospitality. Eco-tourism is becoming increasingly popular and can be found in places such as Milford Sound, the Catlins and Riverton. Southland is sometimes overlooked as nearby Queenstown is viewed as the adrenaline capital of New Zealand but as I am from this area I can tell you this is a place that shouldn’t be missed as it is a wonderful place to work and the local people are among the friendliest on the planet.

Population

Population: June 2009 estimate 93,500

Southland's largest urban centre is Invercargill, a city of 49,000 people. Visitors come to admire the elegant Victorian and Edwardian buildings, gardens and landscaped parks. As in Dunedin to the north, Invercargill was originally settled by people from Scotland. Southland's other principal urban settlement is the town of Gore. Southland covers an area of 28,681 square kilometres. In the June 2009 estimate it had a population of 93,500, making it one of New Zealand's most sparsely populated areas. The western part, Fiordland, is almost without any permanent human habitation. The unemployment rate in Southland Region was 5.3 percent, compared with 7.5 percent for all of New Zealand and 93.4 percent of people in Southland belong to the European ethnic group, compared with 80.1 percent for all of New Zealand.

Land area: 30,400.94 km² (11,737.87 sq mi).

Main Centres: Invercargill, Gore, Bluff, Stewart Island, Winton, Riverton, Lumsden, Te Anau

History

Originally part of Otago Province, Southland Province (a small part of the present region, centred on Invercargill) was one of the provinces of New Zealand from 1861 until 1870 when it rejoined Otago Province due to financial difficulties but provinces were abolished entirely in 1876 and replaced by other forms of local authority, including counties. From this time the national limelight gradually shifted northwards. The region's largest flood on 27 January 1984 led to a state of emergency being declared, the evacuation of 4,000 people, and damage exceeding $100 million (1984 dollars). Around 12,000 sheep, 100 cattle, 334 pigs and 75 deer drowned.

Activities: What to do there?

A half-hour drive south from Invercargill is the fishing port of Bluff—home to the famous Bluff oyster and the annual Bluff Oyster and Southland Seafood Festival. From Bluff, visitors can catch a ferry to Stewart Island. The island can also be reached by air from Invercargill. Stewart Island is a haven for native bird life and the only place in New Zealand where you can readily see kiwi in their natural habitat.

Stewart Island is a large island, 64 kilometres long and 40 kilometres across, so don't expect to walk around it in a day or even a week! It has 700 kilometres of coastline but there are only 20 kilometres of roads. As well as kiwi, the island ishome to many other native bird varieties including kaka, tui and bellbird. Seabirds abound off-shore - albatross, petrels, cormorants, gulls and blue penguins are common and rarer species such as yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho) are also often seen. Southland also has large areas of near-pristine rainforest, ideal for day walks and hiking. Curio Bay on the Catlins Coast is one of the geological wonders of the world. This petrified forest of subtropical kauri and other trees dates back to the Jurassic Age, 135 to 190 million years ago. For anyone keen on fishing Gore has Southland great brown trout on offer. There is nature in abundance in the Fiordland National Park, which is one of the largest national parks in the world, and scenic wonder at Milford and Doubtful sounds. The Te Anau glow-worm caves are also well worth visiting.

Entertainment

There is a lot on offer here as there are several great galleries and museums. The Southland Museum and Art Gallery has a Māori gallery that emphasises the everyday aspects of pre-European contact life in Murihiku (Southland). This includes the processes of adze making; fishing, using bone and stone lures; and pastimes and musical instruments.

The natural history gallery presents many aspects of nature in the province, including an emphasis on rare and endangered species such as the kakapo and kiwi, as well as sub-fossil bones of extinct birds such as moa. This gallery also covers subjects such as geology and sea life. The "Beyond the Roaring 40's Gallery", interprets unique and vulnerable sub-Antarctic themes and was developed with both museum and Department of Conservation expertise. "Sport in Southland" illustrates heritage, diversity and changes over time of many of the sports played in the region and includes the shell of Burt Munro's world record-breaking Indian motorbike and the Roger Donaldson film about Burt, The World’s Fastest Indian. The art galleries feature regular contemporary and historical art exhibitions, plus travelling shows and works from permanent collections; often with a regional emphasis that includes Stewart Island and the sub-Antarctic Islands. The museum has a significant collection of art, photography, ceramics and craft. all of which are shown regularly. Of special note is a work by William Hodges, “A Maori before a waterfall in Dusky Bay’’ (1773), and Te Mauri, the large pounamu (greenstone) boulder that was shipped to the United States to be part of the Te Maori Exhibition in 1984.

Transport

Airport: The main airport is only 3 km from the centre of the bustling provincial city of Invercargill. Air New Zealand operates regular scheduled services connecting Invercargill with most other New Zealand airports. Regular scheduled services to Stewart Island are operated by Stewart Island Flights. http://www.invercargillairport.co.nz/

Roads: The region is well blessed with an extensive network of open roads reaching all the places you may wish to go (except, of course, the remote wilderness areas of Fiordland National Park). This makes driving a pleasure with some fantastic scenery to admire along the way. http://www.southlandnz.com/VisitSouthland/Transport/DrivingTimes.aspx

Buses: A wide range of bus and shuttle services are available throughout Southland. The following companies provide transport links in the region. Intercity (Nationwide - Te Anau - Queenstown - Christchurch - Dunedin - Gore - Invercargill), Atomic Shuttles (South Island - Invercargill - Dunedin - Christchurch), Wanaka Connexions (Invercargill - Queenstown - Cromwell - Wanaka), Catlins Coaster (Dunedin - Invercargill via SH1 then back to Dunedin via the Catlins - see listing under "Activities"), Knightrider (evening service between Invercargill and Christchurch), Tracknet (Te Anau - Queenstown - Invercargill), Catch-A-Bus (door-to-door service to Dunedin), Scenic Shuttles (Southern Scenic Route to Te Anau - not operating over winter), Stewart Island Experience (Invercargill- Bluff), Invercargill Airport Shuttle (Invercargill Airport to City). For information, travel advice and bookings for Southland, email visit@southlandnz.com

Ferries: Taking the ferry to Stewart Island is a memorable journey no matter what the weather! Regular and reliable daily departures between Bluff and Oban are provided by http://www.stewartislandexperience.co.nz

Train: There are no passenger trains available in the Southland region. Cycling: Because Invercargill is spread over a large flat area, Environment Southland saw the opportunity to encourage locals to walk and cycle and extended and improved the available network of walkways and cycling routes.

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